Wednesday 21 March 2018

Stephen Flynn of the Happy Pear: The biggest breakthrough was realising you didn't have to be drunk to meet women

Stephen Flynn (36) is the co-founder, with David, his identical twin brother, of The Happy Pear health-food shop and restaurant. He lives in Greystones, Co Wicklow, with his wife, Justyna, and their children - May (5) and three-year-old Theo

David and Stephen Flynn pictured at BloggerConf 2016 at The Marker Hotel. Picture: Patrick O'Leary
David and Stephen Flynn pictured at BloggerConf 2016 at The Marker Hotel. Picture: Patrick O'Leary

I get up at 5am. Generally, the alarm will go off, but occasionally I'll wake up naturally. Normally, there's my wife, Justyna, in our bed and our son, Theo. He goes to bed in his own bed, but pretty much every night, he gets up and climbs into our bed. I love it. We got a bigger bed last year just because he kept coming into ours. As much as you want your sleep, it's also lovely having him in our bed. We also have a daughter, May. I'm always the first one up.

I live in Greystones, just beside our shop, The Happy Pear on Church Road. It's a fruit-and-veg and health-food shop, and a restaurant, which has been open since 2004. Generally, I go down to see the sunrise. I do it all year round, and this morning, I even went swimming. I phoned David, who was up in the shop, and he joined me. He's my twin brother. I work with him, and we started the business together.

We were room-mates, and we're identical twins. People mix us up all the time, but that's part of the game.

We spend so much time together that we nearly function as one. It's very special. Every day, I'll feel something that is happening with David, and I'll call him. Sometimes, if I'm very tired and a little bit off, he'll notice and tell me to do something for myself. We were part of the UCD Twin Study done last year, and when they measured us, we were the most identical; 99.9pc recurring identical. We are mirror twins, which means that the eggs separated really late. We understand each other without even talking, so we don't have to discuss things. In terms of business, it's a wonderful partnership. But one of our weaknesses is that we're not good at communicating things, as we assume that other people understand. Also, being a twin, you're highly competitive, because you've been competing for love from the day you were born.

Some days I'll do yoga down by Ladies' Cove. You feel stronger and more flexible, and it helps me focus my mind. In summer, the sunrise is around 4am. There aren't very many people around, so it feels very peaceful, like your own time. In winter, I might run up the cliffs. Our schedules vary a lot, depending on what we might be doing. But if I was at home, I might go up to the shop and do an hour's work. I get a call when the kids wake up - which would be between 6.30am and 8am - and then I'll go across and have brekkie with them. It's usually porridge. Sometimes I'll bring the kids back to the shop, and we'll make a super-smoothie, and I'll leave Justyna in bed. She is Polish, and she's a clinical psychologist. We speak Polish at home. I had a few lessons, and then I just picked it up. I love languages.

We started a business, but we wanted to use it as a vehicle for social change. One Monday morning, I walked into the local greengrocer shop, which was already there, and asked if I could buy it. I didn't have any money, but I had a dream. People thought we were lunatics. We wanted to create a happier, healthier world. It came out of myself and David going off on an in-search-of-truth journey. As twins, you tend to rely on each other and do things together, but we both decided to go away separately. This was a big step for both of us. Initially, it took a bit of readjustment.

Up until then, we had studied commerce. We went to an all-boys' school and we were brought up on the standard Irish diet. We were meatheads. We played a lot of rugby and loved getting drunk and chasing women. If you study business, you're sold the American dream. Be a stockbroker, make a load of money, and then you can do what you want, and you'll be happy. But we figured that there had to be more to life than this. I decided to go off travelling to find my place in the world and where I felt most comfortably me.

During that time, I became interested in health, and I transformed my diet and lifestyle. David did the same. Both of us decided to become vegetarians on the same day, even though we were in different parts of the world and hadn't been talking to each other. We also gave up drink. Initially, this was because we were training for a marathon. But we felt better, so we stayed off it. We learnt that you didn't need alcohol as a social lubricant. The biggest breakthrough was realising that you didn't have to be drunk to meet women. We were only 22 at the time, so the focus was very much on the opposite sex.

When we came back, people looked at us with pity. We had gone to college, and there was a lot of potential, but then we became long-haired hippies, wearing bright-coloured clothes, driving a little red van and selling cabbages. Eventually, people began to understand what we were trying to do, and they supported us. Now we employ 100 people, and it's really rocking.

Our days vary. We're involved in the SuperValu Good Food Karma Project, which encourages Irish people to cook more. We are highly creative, so we could be trying out new recipes, such as tasting coconut yoghurt which we're fermenting. Our cookbook was a huge success, and now we have a new book out, The World of the Happy Pear, which deals with our philosophy. We talk about our kids and feeding kids healthy food. At the weekends, I work behind the counter because it gets so busy.

I might cook twice a week, and when I do, I let the kids participate. If they are involved in the preparation of the food, they are more likely to eat it. After the kids go to bed, I might watch a movie, read a book or sit and talk to Justyna. I usually go to bed around 10.30pm. My days are action-packed, so the minute I'm in bed, I fall asleep straight away.

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

The Happy Pear is an ambassador for SuperValu's Good Food Karma Project, a campaign which aims to get Ireland cooking one more meal from scratch

a week, to help build a healthier, happier nation. See;

Sunday Independent

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